The Backgammon game is a very popular member of the ‘tables’ family and is played with much enthusiasm all over the world. Its roots can be dated back 5000 years to the civilization of Mesopotamia. Backgammon is a comprehensive game that involves both strategies as well as luck. In modern times the game was developed to incorporate the betting industry with the introduction of another die called the doubling cube. This die has numbers on its face and is used to raise the stakes.

What is the Backgammon Game?

The Backgammon game is played between two opponents by rolling two dice and moving the 15 checkers (or pieces) each along 24 points (portrayed as triangles) on the board. The objective of this game is to move all 15 checkers off the board as quickly as possible while scoring the highest points. This is also referred to as ‘bear off.’

Every role of dice gives a player multiple options to move around the board while anticipating the opponents move. The doubling cube can be used to raise the stakes before the dice roll is cast.

Like Poker this game can be played multiple times with the winner scoring the sum total of the highest points. Today, multiple computer software has been developed after scientifically studying the various plays.

How to Play

The Backgammon board is divided into 4 quadrants with each player having a ‘home-board’ and an ‘outer-board’ that are adjacent to each other. The checkers are placed opposite to each other in numbering. 24 points of one player become 1 point for the other and so on. The checkers are moved counter-clockwise in a horseshoe shape from one player’s home-board to the opponent’s home board.

Board Placement

There are 12 long triangles referred to as points on each side of the board and are numbered from 1 to 24. Each player begins with 15 checkers in the Backgammon game that are placed as follows for each player:

  • 2 on 24 point
  • 3 on 8 point
  • 5 on 13 point
  • 5 on 6 point

Each player has his individual numbering system for points, and hence the checkers will not overlap each other.

First Roll

To commence the game the higher number on die is taken into consideration. Each player shall roll one of the dice. The player who scores higher on the die roll is allowed to take the first chance. For instance, if the dice roll for both players was 4 and 1 respectively, then the player with 4 shall move his pieces first. The die must be rolled again if both players get the same number.

First Move

Both dice are rolled together to determine the first move. The player then moves either one or two checkers forward legally as per the numbers on the face of each die.

Doubles

Sometimes numbers shall be the same on each die. This is referred to as doubles, and a player gets 4 movement options for his checkers rather than 2. For instance, if a player rolled doubles of 3, then rather than moving his checkers 3 steps forward two times, the checkers can be moved 3 steps forward 4 times.

Relinquish Turn

The rules state that you do not have to play all turns. If you roll a 5 and 6, and you do not see an opening for 6, then you can safely play 5 and relinquish 6. The same applies to doubles as well.

Movement

The checkers can be moved to any open points that are denoted by any point with no checkers, all of your checkers or only one checker of the opponent. The objective is to move your checkers out of your opponent’s home-board as quickly as possible.

Double the Stakes

In Backgammon game the score is not kept by adding winner’s points. The stake loser loses points as per the face value, double value or triple value. The stakes are kept track of by the doubling cube that is a marker with numbers on its face. You can double the stakes before you roll the dice for your turn. Your opponent will have to accept the offer or forfeit the game as per the previous stakes. Both players can double the stakes back and forth as many times as required.

Blot

A blot is referred to the point in which there is only one checker. It can be either yours or your opponent’s. Hitting blots are a good way to slow down your opponent. Whenever you hit your opponent’s blot, the check piece is kept on the bar (middle sleeve of the board). The opponent cannot move any checker till the blot checker is not brought back into your home-board.

Re-enter a Blot

A blot can only be re-entered into the opponent’s home board. Hence, the numbers 2 to 6 should feature on the dice. You can enter only those points that are not occupied by 2 or more checker pieces of your opponent. However, you can enter a point with your checkers or an opponent’s blot.
If there are multiple checkers on the bar, then all must be moved to the opponent’s home-board before normal playing can resume.

Bear-off

You successfully win a round of Backgammon game when you bear off or remove all checker pieces from the board before your opponent. There are many moves that can be used while bearing off. However, a player can only start bearing off when all checkers of that player are in the home board. The numbers rolled on the dice can either be exact or more than the required number of spaces to move the checker pieces off the board.

An opponent can slow down your game by putting you in a vulnerable position. Your checkers can still be put in a blot and moved to the bar. In such an instance you might have to begin again from the 24th point.

Backgammon Win

You win once you bear off all 15 checkers before your opponent. However, not all wins are equal. A regular loss is when your opponent is also trying to bear off the checkers. In this only the value on doubling cube is lost.

However, in case you bear off all your checkers before giving a chance to your opponent to bear off any, then twice the value on the doubling cube is lost. This is termed the Gammon.

It is a Backgammon loss when your opponent has his checkers in your home board or on the bar. The result is a loss that is triple the value on doubling-cube.

Tips, Strategies, & More

To win a Backgammon game, you need to understand the various tips, techniques, and strategies that will work best against your opponent. With knowledge and experience, you shall be able to defeat your opponent with a total Backgammon win.

Here are a few tips that can help you win:

  • If you lag behind in the race, then it will work in your favor to slow down your game. It is a good strategy to block your opponent’s home-board and slow him down from bearing off.
  • Alternatively, if you are ahead in the race, then move as quickly as possible. Put pressure on your opponent to empty your home-board with immediate threats of a blot.
  • If your opponent has created an advanced anchor, then ensure that you dedicate all your strategies to create one for yourself immediately.
  • The battle for 4 points and 5 points early on in the game in order to fight for equality. There are many proven strategies that have been used by expert Backgammon players from all over the world. These are:

Running Game

This is the best strategy to be used as a beginner. However, it is important that you are strong with your rolls and can throw higher numbers. A running game involves you to play as swiftly as possible moving your pieces quickly around the board.

Priming

This involves creating connected series of primes along the board. You can essentially block your opponent’s movement by creating four made points in a row. This strategy is more effective when combined with the Blitz and can ensure that your player slows down considerably affording you an early win.

Blitz

This is an attacking game in which rather than rushing for bear-off you strategize along with the board. This provides a two-pronged attack. You try to blot as many opponent’s pieces as possible while blocking the board. This also aids your cause by essentially trapping some of your opponent’s checker along the board.

Holding Game

This involves you leaving an anchor point with two or more checkers in your opponent’s home board. You can rely on this anchor point to get off the bar or to block your opponent’s game.

Conclusion

Backgammon game can provide you with hours of immense entertainment while applying your skills as a strategist. The endeavors made to predict your opponent’s strategies, and play makes this game immensely addictive and interesting. To gain complete enjoyment from Backgammon game, it is important that you play it more than once at a sitting and keep adding to the scores.

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